Thanos wiped out would return in the end StudiosPeople felt real grief


Losing someone you love always hurts. But losing them too early — to terminal illness, or an accident, or in a war, or something else — is extraordinarily hard. There’s no one way to respond. Everyone deals with grief differently.Avengers: Endgame understands this well — or, at least, the first 45 minutes or so do.The movie opens within days of the “snap,” in which the villain Thanos collects the Infinity Stones, snaps his fingers, and wipes out half the earth’s population in a moment. Then it skips ahead by five years, when everyone is still trying to deal with the fallout.To its credit, Endgame is unusually nuanced for a big-budget action movie of its kind in depicting the varied ways people react to grief. Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. Black Widow) has turned into a bundle of activity, holding meetings with various Avengers to check in on their activity around the world. Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America) is part of a support group for people dealing with their grief and trying to move on. Clint Barton (Hawkeye) saw his family disappear before his eyes, and has been trying to cope by becoming an angry vigilante. Bruce Banner has fused with Hulk and become an almost too genial fellow; Thor has fallen into depression and alcoholism. Things are bleak. The Avengers in “Avengers: Endgame.”vengers, assemble. Marvel Studiosoon, however, the Avengers are reassembling. They’ve come up with a plan that might help them right the wrong: building a kind of time machine contraption that will let them travel into the past — not to change it, but to steal the Infinity Stones, bring them into the future, reverse Thanos’s snap, and resurrect half the world’s population. When they pull it off, it’s triumphant and exciting, with swelling music. We shed a tear when everyone reappears. We want to applaud.Of course, there are complications along the way. Some of the bad guys figure out a way to travel forward in time to stop the Avengers, presumably because it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie if there wasn’t a big fight at the end. And while they’re fighting to bring back those they lost, some of the Avengers lose their own lives — Black Widow, in an effort to get one of the stones, and Iron Man, in ultimately wielding the stones and bringing everyone back.But these aren’t senseless deaths, like the ones rendered by the snap. Black Widow and Iron Man die because the story requires it; they die for a reason.The MCU is nothing if not a big Hollywood franchise, and in a Hollywood franchise, things have to work out. The good guys have to win. If they die, it has to be for a satisfying narrative purpose.Honestly, I can’t fault the filmmakers for that. It’s what audiences want from a movie like Endgame. And it is, at times, genuinely moving.But the movie’s arc — with grief being sidelined so early, and mostly mitigated — also rang a little hollow to me. We always knew that most of the people Thanos wiped out would return in the end. (If nothing else, the fact that Spider-Man: Far From Home, due out in July, stars a character who disappeared in the snap made that pretty clear.) Avengers: Infinity WarWhat happened in Infinity War was a tragedy — but one we always knew would be rectified. Marvel StudiosPeople felt real grief when characters disappeared in Infinity War; audience members cried in a way I rarely hear during a superhero film. The snap was cruel and senseless, with people chosen to die at random.But this is how big Hollywood films almost always operate: They truncate the time we have to spend with difficult emotions and give us the fantasy of a happy ending.That’s not, however, how grief manifests in real life.Endgame’s casual brush with grief is not much like life. But sometimes TV has gotten it right.Nonsensical, inexplicable disappearances and deaths leave you shattered and scared and angry and confused. I know this. I lost my father, someone everyone loved, very suddenly to leukemia and a brain aneurysm in 2006. It happened a few days before my wedding. He was 47. It turns out all the faith in the world won’t help you explain the logic behind that.But sometimes, a story can help.What I remember most about the time following his death is that I remember almost nothing at all. Like, I think I blocked out most of that first year completely. In graduate school, I tried to write about it, but I couldn’t recall anything that happened. It was my first year of marriage, and if you had asked me if I was happy, I would have said yes. And I was. There are pictures that prove it. But I must have been sleepwalking.What a strange response to grief — blocking out memories entirely, being fully functioning on the outside and entirely absent on the inside. Then again, I’m a pretty easygoing person who’s staked most of her identity, most of her life, on not being “emotional” or “irrational,” on trying not to cause trouble for anyone else. (Ask anyone who knows me well: I don’t cry at movies.) So it makes sense.You can’t really control how you respond, only how you deal with that response. At 22, having lived a pretty easy life, I wasn’t ready to deal, though I knew something inside me was not working. A scene from Six Feet UnderHBO’s Six Feet Under, which is all about death, is an oddly comforting show. HBO



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